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On Mars: Exploration of the Red Planet. 1958-1978

[83] Voyager was an advanced mission concept first considered in the spring of 1960 when the NASA staff was beginning to define its long-range plans for lunar and planetary missions.1 In their semiannual (l April-30 September 1960) report to Congress, the agency managers reported that preliminary mission studies were under way for a second planetary series. The Voyager orbiters were to be designed to orbit Venus and Mars and were to be "phased in time and capabilities with the Saturn launch vehicle.'' Orbits of the planets for long periods would make possible excellent investigations of their environments, and landing capsules would he able to provide information on the lower atmospheres and surfaces. 2 In designing the Voyager spacecraft, NASA engineers and scientists hoped to use new data gleaned from the Mariner flights-information that would help them design Voyager's scientific instruments to answer the proper questions and solve technological problems posed by Voyager's large size.
Unfortunately, the real world of politics, with too many projects competing for too few federal dollars, is seldom as neat as planners hope. For the Voyager proponents, the real world was an unhappy one. Delays on the Atlas-Centaur launch vehicle during the early 1960s prompted many changes in the Mariner project, which in turn delayed the acquisition of information about the Martian environment essential to the designers of Voyager. But Kennedy's decision to mount a full-scale assault on the moon was an even bigger blow for the supporters of unmanned space exploration. Once the manned Apollo decision had been made, the Marshall Space Flight Center and its industrial contractors concentrated on the preparation and production of Saturns for the lunar missions. Launch vehicles for space science projects would become available only after the top-priority goal had been met. From the start, Voyager was by definition a second-class project. As Congress became restive over the increased expenditures for Apollo, monies originally marked for space science and Voyager were reallocated to help pay for the moon program. Added to this were a costly war in Vietnam and the domestic troubles of the late 1960s. All post-Apollo missions proposed by the space agency faced reduced appropriations, which put....

[whole p84] (One of the first conceptual views of Voyager, above, was published in the NASA-Industry Plans Conference, July 28-29, 1960. The artist concept below was described by Edgar M. Cortright during March 1961 NASA hearings before Congress: "This spacecraft, weighing about 2,400 pounds [1090 kilograms], would be designed to orbit the target planet and to inject a several-hundred-pound capsule capable of surviving atmospheric entry and descent....Thus the orbiting spacecraft would observe the planet and its atmosphere...., while the landing capsule would make detailed measurements during descent and on the groundŠNumerous .... developments are required to accomplish this difficult but fascinating and distinctly realistic mission, which may well include among its rewards the discovery of extraterrestrial life." Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, NASA Scientific and Technical Programs, hearings, 87th Cong., 1st sess., 28 Feb., 1 Mar. 1961.)

[85]....Voyager in deep fiscal trouble by summer 1967. A request in August from the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston for proposals to study manned missions to Mars was the last bit of bad luck. Congress rebelled and terminated all Voyager work.
At first glance, it would appear that the Voyager project of the 1960s, like Mariner B and Mariner 66, was just another project that never progressed beyond the drafting table, but it was more than that. Voyager, with thousands of man-hours of work behind it, performed by dozens of specialists and costing many millions of dollars, helped to refine art understanding of the best approaches for a combination orbiter-lander investigation of Mars. Upon the solid foundations laid by Voyager personnel, the Viking team that followed them could construct a successful mission. The story of Voyager's troubles is essential to an understanding of Viking's accomplishments.